Misplaced Grammar Guardians


First, a shameless plug:

On Saturday December 7 @ 11 am I’ll be at Barnhill’s bookstore in Winston-Salem reading from and signing my latest book, Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers. Come and join us!

Speaking of books, I was in a bookstore the other day browsing through chapter books. One of the readers in our family has reached the milestone of moving beyond picture books and I am more than happy to get him started in this new category.

I had such fun. I loved discovering all of the new (to me) series. Friends who are also parents gave enthusiastic recommendations. I looked forward to the day when I could start him on Harry Potter books and he would know not only Luke Skywalker but Harry Potter. And Dumbledore. And of course, Ron and Hermione.

But I digress.

Wandering through the shelves was like being at a party filled with old friends. I loved so many of those books.

When my elementary school classmates started reocnnecting one of the memories talked about was the Scholastic Book Club. For me the catalogues that came out every ordering period were better than the big, fat Sears Wishbook because they were filled with books. There were so many books. I don’t remmber the prices but I know they were dirt cheap. There were so many books and I wanted to read nearly all of them.

My mother had to give me a budget.  I could order that many and no more. Black Stallion, Island Stallion… I devoured all of the horse books. And the Guinness World Record Books. And I was perhaps the only girl in the school system to order Instant Replay, the diary of one of Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer’s championship season. (What can I say? I had brothers.)

The days when the Scholastic Book Club orders came in were exciting days in our classrooms. We each welcomed the small brown boxes for the treasure that they were.

When  I read the reviews of one of the series that many parents enthusiastically recommended to me, some of the reviewers were critical of the books and reluctiant to sure them with their kids. It seems that the writer used sentence fragments. And started sentances with and. Not proper English. The parents were dismayed that their precious children might be exposed to such poor writing at such a young age.

booksThose parents had it all wrong. We don’t need to worry about whether or not our children are reading books with proper grammar (which, incidentally would also eliminate folks like Mark Twain.) We need to make sure that kids are reading books that are good stories.

The purpose of reading at this age isn’t to teach them the proper use of prepositions. It’s to help them fall in love with words and stories. Recent studies have shown that readers of fiction tend to be more compassionate… because we have spent time experiencing other people’s lives. In a world filled with video games and televisions of every size, we want to help kids fall in love with the magic of reading a story.

I come from a long line of grammar correcting people, but they also knew the wonder of a story. As do I.

And if it takes a sentence fragment or two to get there, I can live with that. Always.

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